It’s war you can watch on video, much like a movie, except the victims really die and the killers really murder. If you watch and listen to the entire recording of the July 12, 2007 helicopter attack on a group of Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters employees, you will hear the repeated use of military call signs, but towards the end, you hear an exasperated voice sharing an aside with "Kyle." It’s Grand Theft Auto meets Reno 911 — except it isn’t. One is entertained by GTA and the antics of incompetent policepeople. One is simply floored by what our soldiers are doing, and how they are doing it. In their defense, they say, "This is war."
Except, of course, it isn’t war at all. It’s an occupation, and a partial occupation at that. In July 2007, the Iraq mission had been accomplished for over four years. We are allies with Eurasia; we have always been at war with Eastasia. How could you have possibly missed it?
Reuters had a longstanding FOIA request for this record of how their unarmed employees died that day. The military delayed, refused, and by some reports, lost the videotape.
WikiLeaks apparently received an anonymous donation of the evidence Reuters had asked for, and they posted it. The military has confirmed the authenticity and is downplaying what happened, with the help of major American media. So far, views on YouTube are over 4 million and rising.
If you watch what American soldiers and their commanders did on that day, and presumably on many such days, you will be struck by the laughter. Laughing when they shoot, after they shoot, in viewing the dead and near dead, and even laughing as they drive over the bodies in a hurry to record mission success. For the most part, this isn’t nervous laughter; instead, it is the laughter of thugs, the laughter of bullies.
You may also be struck by the obsession with personal safety and the reliance on technology to murder and maim from afar — a disturbing trend that air operations have known for decades. From a distance, the men and a few children appear to be scurrying insects. Except, of course, they are not.
The conditioning of our soldiers in occupation operations is clear, and complete. Listen to the recording. The people are the enemy, and if they or their children die, it’s their own fault for being in a war zone. As some have noted, when these guys leave the military they often join local police and security forces. Can they turn off the hatred and brutality and self-justification when it is Americans who are congregating and scurrying?
WikiLeaks has worried the Pentagon for some time. The website recently posted a two-year-old Army intelligence product entitled, "An Online Reference to Foreign Intelligence Services, Insurgents, or Terrorist Groups? The report indicates that the Army considers WikiLeaks a threat, observes approvingly that allies China, Israel and Russia block such sites and prosecute the leakers, and suggests that "The identification, exposure, or termination of employment of or legal actions against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others from using WikiLeaks.org to make such information public."
Suspicion confirmed. American official defense strategy is "shoot the messenger."
The problem for the state, as Gary North explained so clearly, is that we are all messengers. For the first time, it is clear that the problem for the people is, er, well, we are all messengers.
As the American public discovers the record of this one slaughter conducted by American troops on this one day in July four years ago, and they will, it will become far more important than the leak of the torture photographs at Abu Ghraib. Just as this July 2007 slaughter is a typical and mundane operation, the torture at Abu Ghraib wasn’t the worst, or only case of American torture of the incarcerated under the auspices of the War on Terror. General Miller and many others had developed these techniques and cultured the attitudes, the standing orders and practices at Guantanamo, and at the American gulag of secret holding facilities across Europe and Asia. The release of the pictures did not signify the end of the torture or the occupations, but over time, the images did have a powerful social impact on Americans.
Americans were forced to think about torture as legal policy, they were forced to talk about it because the media inundated us with it, and they were forced take sides. Many supported torture as politically necessary and expedient, but many more were repulsed, and felt betrayed and discredited by the state and the military. Specifically, Abu Ghraib marked the beginning of the end of blind unquestioning fundamentalist Christian support for George W. Bush. However, the Abu Ghraib revelations did not seriously change politics. It was a big media topic throughout most of 2004, yet George W. Bush and his cohorts in crime, the Republican and Democratic Parties, maintained power as before. That’s mainly because those tortured were not humanized, and the guilty parties, as we were told by the brass and the media, were a bunch of low-ranking redneck losers. Meaning, it can’t happen here.
The New Baghdad Massacre, however, is going to have quite a different effect. The murderers are pilots and army aircrew, and of course, their higher-ranking bosses back at HQ. The mainstream state media is not talking about the video, showing only sanitized versions of it, back paging and burying the story. But like a quiet insistent melody in the back of our minds, average Americans hear their voices. They sound remarkably like voices we know. The political class in this country doesn’t come out of trailer parks and put dog collars on prisoners. The political class in this country, supported by and supporting the mainstream media, could rest easy watching the bad apples in Abu Ghraib go to jail, and they did.
This class of people, however, senses that something has changed. The tenor has shifted, a certain shrill coolness is now in the air. These casual acts of inhumanity were conducted by people with whom they are identified. The political class smells blood, and it may be their own.
As I reel, and millions of other Americans are reeling, from this sadistic yet oddly routinized Iraq occupation activity, I read that in Afghanistan, special forces soldiers actually dug bullets out of dead Afghan women killed in a raid, in order to avoid accountability. We do not yet know if they were laughing and joking as they cut and sawed the flesh of the freshly murdered.
State wars are advertised and sold as wars of honor and justice. The Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, occupations, and rigged elections of our political lackeys have followed that playbook very closely. This New Baghdad video brings home the naked reality of what the state has done, what the state is doing, and what it can do in the name of force protection — and absolutely nothing else.
It’s not war at all. But it is the wake-up call to immediately end the extravagant spending on offense that most Americans have been waiting for. For the political class, the state and its parasites, the other shoe is now falling.
LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosts the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here.